The Ugandan health sector has achieved a remarkable 6% reduction in reported deaths, plummeting from a daunting 56,878 in the 2021/2022 fiscal year to a significantly lower 53,222 deaths in the 2022/2023 financial year, as disclosed by the government.
This groundbreaking revelation is encapsulated in the much-anticipated Annual Health Sector Performance report for the 2022/2023 fiscal year, unveiled to the public on Wednesday.
The report exposes a harrowing truth: among the 53,222 recorded deaths in facilities during the last financial year, “General Hospitals” bore the grim distinction of hosting 30.7% of inpatient deaths, followed closely by regional referral hospitals at 26.8%.
Startlingly, the report underscores that neonatal conditions, encompassing common afflictions affecting newborns such as colds, coughs, and fevers, now stand as the predominant cause of health facility fatalities across all age groups, accounting for a staggering 10.3%.
Trailing behind, malaria and pneumonia claim 7.4% and 5.3% respectively, with anemia accounting for 3.9% of the grim tally.
Adding to the grim mosaic, road traffic incidents involving motorcycles and vehicles contributed to 2.3% of the reported deaths, while septicemia, the insidious poisoning of the blood by bacteria, contributed to 1.9% of health facility fatalities.
In a seemingly paradoxical twist, despite a rise in reported malaria cases from 302 per 1000 to 317 per 1000 population, coupled with a 16.6% surge in malaria admissions, the number of recorded malaria deaths plummeted by an astounding 15% from 5,017 to 4,245, as per the report’s revelation.
The Health Ministry also heralded focused interventions targeting the reduction of newborn mortality, particularly for infants between 28 weeks of gestation onwards and within the initial seven days of life (perinatal death).
Noteworthy strides were observed with the establishment of Neonatal Intensive Care Units and mentorship programs, leading to a notable 36.8% reduction in deaths attributed to neonatal conditions, from 5,899 in 2021/22 to 3,730 in 2022/23.
The report additionally casts a glaring spotlight on the distressing fact that 22,125, nearly half of the total 53,222 deaths in health facilities, were children under five years of age. Among this vulnerable demographic, neonatal conditions, malaria, pneumonia, and anemia were identified as the chief culprits behind the heart-wrenching losses.
Dr. Richard Mugahi, the assistant commissioner for reproductive and infant health at the Ministry, articulated a fervent commitment to curbing preventable deaths. He disclosed, “We have pinpointed the leading cause of death for newborns within the first 28 days – it is birth asphyxia, where these fragile infants struggle to breathe.
This highlights the pressing need for resuscitation equipment and intensive training for health workers in aiding newborns to breathe. We have already embarked on comprehensive training for our nurses in this critical area.”
The report further delineates that alongside birth asphyxia, complications of prematurity and septicemia have persisted as the primary causes of neonatal deaths over the past five years. Dr. Mugahi emphasized that perinatal deaths currently stand at 18 per 1000 deliveries, with the ambitious goal of reducing this figure to as low as 12 deaths per 1,000 births by 2030.
Maternal deaths, however, saw a slight uptick, with the new report recording 90 deaths per 100,000 live births in health facilities, a marginal increase from the 85 deaths per 100,000 live births in the previous fiscal year (2021/2022).
Dr. Diana Atwine, the Health Ministry’s indefatigable permanent secretary, voiced a resolute commitment to further reducing maternal mortality rates, citing targeted efforts to address haemorrhage, high blood pressure (eclampsia), and other critical issues.
In a rallying call for change, Dr. Atwine stressed the importance of capacity building, combating absenteeism, and addressing the alarming rise in teenage pregnancies through behavior change initiatives.
“We want to look at possible causes and how we can move forward to tackle the particular areas that need improvement. One of them is the haemorrhage. It still continues to be the leading cause of maternal deaths in our facilities. We still see many mothers coming with high blood pressure,” Atwiine said.
The report offers a stark revelation of the challenges and triumphs of Uganda’s health sector, a testament to the tireless efforts of all those involved.
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